Learning from our future

"How can I possibly keep up with all the blogs, tweets, texts, books, papers, and news I'm supposed to be following?" Every time I present at or sit in on a conference or workshop discussion about technology I hear this question. It is usually, though not always, posed by someone about my age or older, with a professional position, decision-making authority at work, and - given the kind of work that I do - an interest in how communities work, global events, policy and change, and social issues.

Here are some of the ways I try to learn how to keep up. Note, my requirement for these practices is that they may alter something I'm already doing, but not add to my to-do list. Why? Because that list is already too long and adding to it ensures that something won't get done.

  1. Only join boards of directors on which you will be surrounded by people significantly younger than you;
  2. Mimic your kids for a day and watch how they get their information. Then try it.
  3. Arrange a meeting to happen at a local community college, high school, or university campus. Arrive 5 minutes early and stay 5 minutes late and watch what students do.
  4. Next time you are stuck at the airport pick your face up from your laptop, look around for someone 10-20 years younger than you, and watch how they work.
  5. Same as above but watch someone 10-20 years older than you. Compare with what you saw in number four above.
  6. Walk somewhere everyday and think about what you've done or learned that day.
OK, since this is not a blog about time management you may now fairly ask me, So what? Well, the next generation of technology users, the next generation of information producers and consumers, and the next generation of our work colleagues are all now one and the same. I want to be able to keep up with them, know where they look for information, how they expect to receive information, and with whom and how they build working relationships.

For some expert information on this, I I highly recommend checking out this panel from the recent discussion "From MySpace to HipHop: New Media in the Everyday Lives of Youth." Produced in line with the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative the panel featured Mimi Ito, danah boyd, Heather Horst, and Dilan Mahendran discussing three years of ethnographic research about young people and media.

Don't let the fact that you missed the actual panel stop you - this is one of the first things to realize about learning and these media. The event is online here, it took place in SecondLife, and you can cruise around the web to find out more. Remember this next time you are organizing something - people will come to your event, and expect it to be captured and saved for them to consume whenever they want.

Disclosure: My company works with the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Initiative

1 comment:

stephanie said...

I love this post! And I think what is great about e.g., twitter, is that I get very short, time efficient highlights from people who I either care about, or care about what they are reading and thinking.